The director of Exit International Dr Philip Nitschke held the free-entry session in Seomra Spraoi in Dublin’s inner city yesterday afternoon, the small communal building the fifth venue designated for the session and follow-up workshop, after the first four pulled out of hosting the event.
The Australian, wrapped in a thick, colourful scarf, told the crowd of about 50, mostly elderly, people: “If you are well enough to come to a meeting like this, you are well enough to plan ahead.”
He was referring to an “end of life plan”, which he said anyone planning on ending their life should consider. As he spoke, many people listened attentively, took notes or recorded proceedings.
Protests were expected given the difficulty in securing a venue for the talk, which was followed by what Dr Nitschke called a “practical workshop”, and the concerns voiced by a number of pro-life groups in advance of the meeting.
The Life Institute had appealed to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to ban the meeting under Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993, while Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign said Dr Nitschke’s visit was “a publicity stunt”.
Fine Gael’s spokesman on mental health Dan Neville said euthanasia and assisted suicide will be debated, but added: “There are serious societal reasons for disallowing euthanasia.”
When at one stage in yesterday’s presentation the soundtrack to a clip failed to work, someone joked: “Are you sure you could organise a good suicide?”
Speaking ahead of yesterday afternoon’s meeting, Dr Nitschke, an Australian, said it was “almost certain” that his group would hold more workshops in Dublin and Belfast before the end of this year.
“We will be left with an embryonic group of people here who want these issues debated,” he said, adding that in his view “forces of darkness” had been behind the difficulties in securing venue.
Some who sat listening to him yesterday may agree; many others would not.